Monday, July 21, 2014

Car / Caritas Culture

I am taking part in a 3-month Public Health program for low-income people, here at the University. I receive a pre-paid credit card to buy some groceries in exchange for tracking all my food purchases.

This morning the Public Health folks e-mailed me direx to the office where they conduct interviews: a full page of directions on how to drive there from all points in the Twin Cities.

I e-mailed back that I don't have a car, and while I know how to use the interactive bus site, maybe they'd like to consider adding public transportation to their directions.

"Thank you for the suggestion!" one of the [perky, well-meaning] coordinators wrote back. "We are unable to provide bus directions due to the vast number of possible routes"

There are a total of two (2) bus lines and two (2) light rail lines that go near their site. Oh, and a bike-sharing rack, for people like me who use the Nice Ride bikes.
This is classic do-gooder carelessness.  
Even public health people, who might be expected to be sensitive to the realities of economic . . . diversity, shall we say, aren't.

It takes time and energy to be poor. Everything takes more time, especially transportation. 

Ignoring this reality is a great way to cultivate rage and resentment on the part of people who receive your charity.

I might define "charity" (caritas, kindness, love) in part, as paying attention.

Such disregard on the part of this Public Health worker sure makes me angry, anyway, and not just on my own behalf. After all, I live on a low-income more or less by choice: I have a college degree; I am a healthy, white woman; I don't have kids; and I have some money from dead relatives. 

But anyway, I've always said I'd rather have time than money, and I've almost never worked full-time, and I keep my expenses very low.

Even if I did work full-time, I still don't want a car! I don't judge anyone who does, because they are fabulous machines, but they are also dangerous, expensive, stinky beasts and I don't want one.

Well, OK, I admit, I might have a car if I could have this one:


Anonymous said...

"You will find out that Charity is a heavy burden to carry, heavier than the kettle of soup and the full basket. But you will keep your gentleness and your smile.

It is not enough to give soup and bread. This the rich can do. You are the servant of the poor, always smiling and good-humored.

They are your masters, terribly sensitive and exacting master you will see. And the uglier and the dirtier they will be, the more unjust and insulting, the more love you must give them.

It is only for your love alone that the poor will forgive you the bread you give to them."
--St. Vincent de Paul

Zhoen said...

Cold as charity, as they say.

If I didn't drive, I would add another two hours onto each day, and some days would have to walk five miles steeply home. A vacation means me not driving at all.

Fresca said...

Z" I'd never heard that saying, "cold as charity." Spot on!

Marz said...

Just like people assume I have a car, I find myself assuming people DON'T have a car when giving directions: "You just take the 4."
("The 4? Is that a highway?")

Fresca said...

That reminds me of a friend who, when asked if she knew where a subway was, explained that we don't have a subway, we have a light rail train.

Her questioner then explained they meant the sandwich shop.